NASCAR Xfinity: Elliott Sadler first winner in first Xfinity chase
Elliott Sadler celebrates in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway after winning the VisitMyrtleBeach.com on Sept. 24, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Elliott Sadler started off the inaugural chase for the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a win Saturday night in the visit MyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway. It was Sadler’s third win, overall, this year.
“This OneMain Financial team has no quit in them,” Sadler said. “We just fight till the end. This is a great way to start the chase.”
Sadler, though, had bigger things on his mind in victory lane and over the course of the last week.
“We fought through a lot tonight,” Sadler said. “I’m going to get a little emotional on you. I’ve been in the hospital all week with my mom in ICU, watching her fight and fight through a lot of pain and suffering. [She] made her way back home tonight to watch the race. Mom, I love you. She leads so much by example.”
Sadler took his final lead on a restart with four laps remaining after getting a push from Daniel Suarez, who, himself, got up to second on the final restart to take runner-up honors at the checkered flag.
“Right at the end, we were pretty good, maybe just a little tight, but we were strong,” Suarez said. “I feel like we were the fastest car out there at the end. I just needed one or two laps more to get the win.”
The top-two-finishing Xfinity Series regulars and chase competitors, Sadler and Suarez, were followed in the finishing order by three non-championship-eligible drivers. The only Sprint Cup Series regular in the race, Ryan Blaney, finished third, while part-time drivers Sam Hornish and Matt Tifft finished fourth and fifth.
Sadler was credited with a total 11 laps led, while fellow chase drivers Erik Jones and Ty Dillon were up front the most, combining to lead nearly three-quarters of the 200-lap race. Jones led a race-high 100 laps and Dillon ran up front for 47 laps. But they wrecked their chances to begin the Xfinity chase with a win in an incident on lap 188. As a result, both drivers finished well outside the top-20, as Dillon was credited with a 27th-place finish and Jones wound up 28th.
“I just got sucked around,” Jones said. “I tried. I slammed on the brakes trying to slow down, but Ty had been holding me really tight, there, on the restart, slamming doors in [turn] one and two. He was on me pretty tight down there. It was my fault, but it’s tough when you’re in that situation. That’s a pretty tough aero situation into [turn] three. Just couldn’t hang onto it.”
The Jones and Dillon wreck resulted in the 12th and final caution of the race. The tally of 12 yellow flags set a new track record for most cautions in Xfinity Series competition at Kentucky, surpassing the previous record of 10. With such a high number of cautions, drivers with miscues still were able to manage solid finishes near the front. Hornish spun well into the second half of the race, and Tifft was black-flagged for jumping the restart that followed, but both were back inside the top-five by the checkered flag.
Brendan Gaughan finished sixth, Ryan Reed was seventh, Justin Allgaier ninth and Brennan Poole rounded out the top-10.
Jones and Dillon weren’t the only chase drivers outside the top-20 at the end. Brandon Jones finished 26th after a wreck with Justin Marks on lap 96. Chase drivers Blake Koch and Ryan Sieg finished 11th and 16th, respectively.